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октября 2002 года.
Kovalchuk an intriguing character - Canadian Press
TORONTO (CP) -- Maybe it's because he still doesn't speak English very well or because he's only 19 years old, but Russian-born sniper Ilya Kovalchuk of the Atlanta Thrashers seems to go out of his way to draw attention after scoring goals.
And scoring goals is what he's real good at, as in 29 in 65 games last season as an 18-year-old rookie and already six this season but had to sit out for Thursday night's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Kovalchuk was told by coach Curt Fraser before the game he was being benched for poor defensive play. Kovalchuk skated in the warmup but he did not play after his name was left out of his team's lineup.
Sometimes Kovalchuk's antics rub some people the wrong way. The first glimpse of this was when he skated all the way down the ice pumping his fist before scoring into an empty net to seal a victory over Canada at the world junior championships in January 2001.
The latest controversy came against Florida last Monday night when Kovalchuk was nailed for using an illegal stick. He then came back and scored a goal with a legal stick and reportedly skated in front of the Panthers bench and rubbed his blade back and forth -- which drew the ire of Florida coach Mike Keenan.
"There was just a little snow on my blade so I cleaned it off," Kovalchuk said after Thursday morning's skate at the Air Canada Centre, leaving it up the air as to whether he was kidding or not.
"I'm just a very emotional player and I show it in games," Kovalchuk said.
General manager Don Waddell says the Florida incident was blown out of proportion.
"Mike actually never saw that and admitted that he reacted to what one of his players said," Waddell said. "I wasn't that big a deal."
Fraser rolled his eyes when reminded of Keenan's criticism of Kovalchuk.
"I can care less what anyone thinks about him," Fraser said Thursday. "This kid plays to win. He's a little arrogant but great goal-scorers are like that sometimes."
What bothered Fraser was the illegal stick, not the act.
"This kid could score with a nine-iron," Fraser said. "He doesn't need an illegal stick."
That Kovalchuk gets overly excited after scoring goals, such as jumping up and down (even though the score might be 8-1 for the other team), doesn't seem to bother his teammates. They see a special player.
"You're not going to stop him from doing anything," said fellow young star Dany Heatley, a contrast in personality to say the least. "I don't think he's done anything terribly wrong. I mean, I went through it at the world juniors playing against him. He just gets excited."
And that emotion is something the woeful Thrashers, 0-7-0-1 before facing the Leafs, don't want to eliminate.
"There's a little bit of cockiness there but that's OK," says Waddell. "I don't think we'll take that edge away. I think our game absolutely needs these type of players in the game."
What the Thrashers could use from Kovalchuk is a little defence. There were 648 players registered on the NHL's plus/minus ratings before Thursday's games and Kovalchuk ranked dead last at minus-13. No. 647, Heatley, was minus-9.
"I'm an offensive player, but I have to be better defensively," Kovalchuk said. "Minus-13 is just no good.
"It's no good for me and no good for the team. I have to be better."
Waddell could laugh about it, saying the young winger was on pace to "score 45 goals and be minus-100."
"This side of centre ice, you're not going to find a better player," Waddell said, pointing to the offensive zone during his team's morning skate. "He controls the play when he's on the ice. He's a player that wants the puck all the time, which is not a bad thing. His development offensively is just going to get better. He's going to score a lot of goals.
"Obviously, he's got to be conscious defensively. He's never going to be a great defensive player. All we ask him is, 'pick up a man, pay attention to what's going on in your zone."'
Waddell brings up a perfect example of the catch-22 with Kovalchuk from a game last week in Boston.
"It's a 2-1 game, the point man jumps by him, gets the puck out of the slot, jumps down the middle, hits the post. Our defenceman picks it up, (Kovalchuk) gets a breakaway, loses his glove on the way, and scores. So, on one end you want to kill him and then the other he's going to come down and score.
"And that's why you love him. He's a game-breaker."
Страничка Ильи Ковальчука на
сайте "Звёзды с Востока"
9 сентября. Kovalchuk may miss start of camp -
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
25 августа. Форвард Илья Ковальчук: Я еду в «Химик»
- Советский Спорт
29 марта .Илья Ковальчук: "Это был ужасный сезон"
9 сентября. Kovalchuk may miss start of camp - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
25 августа. Форвард Илья Ковальчук: Я еду в «Химик» - Советский Спорт
29 марта .Илья Ковальчук: "Это был ужасный сезон" - Спорт-Экспресс